Global payment processor Mastercard has opened the doors to new applicants for its new initiative aiming to accelerate the development of solutions to support small businesses across Europe: the ‘Strive EU Innovation Fund’.
The new Strive EU Innovation Fund will provide equity-free grants of up to €500,000, alongside technical assistance and mentoring to as many as 20 projects from EU member states. Ultimately, Mastercard hopes to accelerate the development of these new solutions and get them to market faster.
Applications are open to entities of all sizes – from startups to those that are more established – provided they are soliciting innovation that helps Europe’s small business community to:
- Unlock working capital and credit through embedded finance;
- Go digital safely by bolstering cybersecurity;
- Navigate consumer preferences and regulatory expectations around environmental sustainability;
- Harness artificial intelligence (AI) to improve efficiency and income.
Mark Barnett, president of Mastercard Europe, explained the motivation behind the initiative: “Small businesses are the backbone of the European economy and, now more than ever, it is critical that they receive the support they need to join the digital economy.
“We are excited to open the application window for the Strive EU Innovation Fund and to hear about some of the best projects coming from Europe’s most innovative minds over the coming months.”
In addition to the new Innovation Fund, Mastercard plans to establish a ‘Strive EU Small Business Council’ to convene the European entrepreneurial ecosystem and encourage collaboration. The Council will play a key role in selecting the final recipients of the Innovation Fund and supporting winners with financial resources and mentorship throughout the initiative.
This Council will comprise 10 to 15 influential experts, private sector entities and small business representatives, who are set to be announced early next month.
Bolstering the global Strive programme
The new fund becomes the latest development of Mastercard’s global Strive programme; as well as the first dedicated activity for Strive EU, which was launched in November in the European Parliament last year.
Through Strive EU, Mastercard aims to further boost the resilience and growth of Europe’s small business community by supporting new innovations across the EU that help small businesses get capital, go digital, and gain networks and know-how.
Payal Dalal, senior vice president of social impact and international markets at the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, commented: “Digital advances have the potential to serve as a bridge to ensure that everyone, particularly small businesses that power our economies, has the tools to grow and build their businesses and remain resilient.
“We look forward to taking our learnings from our Strive programmes so far and extending our reach and scale across Europe.”
Strive EU will look to build on the strengths of two country-specific initiatives in Europe, Strive Czechia and Strive UK. Since launching in 2021, Strive UK has reached over one million entrepreneurs, connecting them to resources, training, and mentors to help them navigate the digital economy.